When coach Davey Lopes walked into the Orioles clubhouse yesterday, he addressed pitcher Alan Mills in a tone approaching reverence.
"What's up, Cassius?" Lopes said, referring to Cassius Clay, the legendary former heavyweight champion who changed his name in mid-career to Muhammad Ali.
Indeed, Mills got in his share of punches during Sunday's 20-minute brawl, which led to the ejection of Mills and two other Orioles and five Seattle Mariners, including manager Lou Piniella.
"Seemed like every time I dove into a pile to get a white jersey out, it was Mills," said Orioles pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. "Mills, he's crazy. He was fighting half their team."
Mills downplayed his role in one of the biggest brawls in club history.
"I broke up a fight, and the guy I was holding got mad at me for trying to keep peace," Mills said. "That's how it started. That's all I have to say."
He doubtless will have more to say to American League officials. The men who were ejected face possible fines and/or suspensions. The league has the umpires' report of the incident and is waiting for the videotape. AL president Bobby Brown was out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.
"There won't be a decision before Wednesday, and probably not until Thursday," said league spokeswoman Phyllis Merhige.
The brawl was still the talk of the clubhouse yesterday. Pitching coach Dick Bosman told reliever Gregg Olson someone either punched or choked him.
"That was me," Olson said evilly.
Seattle pitcher Chris Bosio aggravated but did not refracture his collarbone, but no Oriole was badly hurt. Manager Johnny Oates said he was sore, however, when he got up yesterday morning.
"Once Gloria put my socks on," Oates said, referring to his wife, "everything was fine."
Harold Reynolds, one of two Orioles Bosio threw behind before Mike Mussina hit the Mariners' Bill Haselman to start the swinging, says Bosio is no stranger to baseball fights.
Reynolds said when he was with Seattle and Bosio was with the Milwaukee Brewers, the teams had three fights in three years, all with Bosio on the mound.
Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks maintains that it was a Bosio pitch that struck Glenn Davis on the neck two years ago in Milwaukee that started the first baseman's physical troubles.
"He had hit a home run off Bosio and then got hit on the neck," Hendricks said. "Glenn complained of numbness in his neck, then went on the disabled list. That was the start of it.
"Bosio doesn't need to intimidate hitters to win. But he doesn't mind throwing at you."
For length, ferocity and number of combatants, Sunday's fight was among the biggest in recent baseball history. Sports Illustrated was inspired to add a two-page photo spread to this week's issue.
Hendricks and catcher Jeff Tackett, however, could recall bigger fights.
"My first year in pro ball, 1959, with a Braves farm club in Nebraska, our manager had us fighting every other day," Hendricks said. "And we were in first place by 12 games. That's when I got a distaste for it. I've seen too many people hurt."
Said Tackett, who has a black eye: "We had a few fights back home [California] in American Legion ball that were longer and crazier."
David Segui, one of the Orioles ejected, and Tim Hulett were in the batting cage under the stands, in case they were called upon to pinch hit, when they heard a scream from the fans.
"It didn't sound like a home run scream," Segui said. "We thought maybe it was a fight."
Out they raced, leaving the pitching machine spewing baseballs to hitters no longer there. Segui saw "guys in two big piles, and I began pulling their guys off our guys." He became enraged when he spotted a Mariner taking down Orioles third baseman Leo Gomez from behind.
After the game, Segui got a phone call from his father, Diego, a former major-league pitcher now coaching with the San Francisco Giants' Single-A team in Everett, Wash.
"He said it was one of the best fights he'd seen," David Segui said.
As the fights continued to break out like little brushfires, the umpires sought out Oates.
"Let's do something," they urged.
"I'm doing all I can," Oates said.
Arthur Rhodes, for one, was in no hurry to see order restored. The pitcher is on the disabled list recovering from knee surgery but joined the melee anyway.
"Everybody had a nice time," Rhodes said.